- "There is an old saying, 'Revenge is a dish best served immediately!' "
Dan is the main protagonist and self-antagonist of the series. He is a short-tempered man with a mission to exact revenge on anyone and anything he deems has wronged him. While expressing a very shallow and abrasive demeanor, in reality, he is simply too overwhelmed with stress, becoming overly-sensitive to everyday pet peeves. Whether due his poor living standards expounded by no job or by a horrible and terrifying childhood, he has been noted as decidedly unable to overcome this compounded stress. In stark contrast to how a normal, comfortably living person might deal with things, he instead takes matters to into his own hands, once he decides he can't restrain his anger any more, and sets out to undergo whatever methods necessary to stop the cause of this tripled aggitation (upon him or, occasionally, the whole of the society) through his "revenge missions". Dan takes things he considers low standard (such as Ninja Dave, anything on Dan's list, normal misbehaved children, Chris, etc.) impersonally, while taking higher instigations (such as balloon cultists, demon bosses, abusive summer camp directors, extorting-thuggish children, wolfmen, etc.) very personally. He believes the entire world is out to get him, which is true most of the time. He will stop at nothing to make sure he settles the score even if his win is pointless, even if it costs him more than he gets out of it. He can appear to be selfish and seem that he doesn't care what happens to others, though he's also known to hide his true feelings and is reluctant to admit to being seen as nice (such as in Dan vs. Burgerphile, the Animal Shelter, and Parents). He also has poor communication skills towards other people in soft moments, so he sometimes has trouble with admitting his true feelings and comfort (Dan vs. the Catburglar, the Animal Shelter, etc), yet is able to properly show his love to animals and pets, such as his kitten Mr. Mumbles.
Despite his bad tendencies, Dan also has some nice qualities. He loves his kitten Mr. Mumbles, and because of their friendship, Mr. Mumbles acts as the calming presence to his rage-bursts while Dan acts as the soothed arroused force, unable to become mad whenever he's around Mr. Mumbles and her adorable cuteness. Dan will even help Chris, Elise, and Elise's hated parents just so he can make sure Mr. Mumbles exists. Even though he treats Chris poorly, he does care about him and has helped him out a few times, if seemingly grudgingly.
It may seem that Dan doesn't mind being just as mean to everyone else (if not meaner), but he has a soft good natured side that he was not able to develop during childhood. It is heard by various comments and in coversations with Chris that Dan's parents were extremely harsh towards him while growing up. He has stated that most of his life has been spent in front of the TV as his parents were very neglecting, so he was "raised by TV" during his childhood. Because of his parents' mindful or unmindful awareness in his rearing, Dan was put to witness many unfortunate experiences growing up. The first of Dan's backstory is seen in the episode Dan vs. Summer Camp, and hints of what his childhood was like have been brought up on several occasions.
Depending on the situation, Dan may be either the protagonist or the antagonist.
Dan has messy black hair, a poorly shaven beard, a scrufffy goatie, green eyes, a soul-patch, and sharp teeth. His everyday outfit consists of blue jeans, black shoes, and a black T-shirt that says 'JERK' in white letters.
Dan is a very short-tempered man, who can and will become enraged with nearly anything that...well anything really. He has very bad luck with anything mechanical and can accidentally cause major damage. He's very comical and childish, often referred to as a "big kid" by Chris. Always in a jobless state and poor living causes Dan to become rightfully raged at the things that cause his added pain. In many of his "missions" he is surprisingly often right in his outlandish assumptions. He can also be very sensitive, in both the negative and positive sense of the word. He can also be very harsh, in both negative and positive sense as, well, but the latter only seen rarely [Dan vs Summer Camp, Chris].
Even with his rash behavior, Dan does have a sense of morality and will occasionally do the right thing. Such as saving all the animals in the shelter before blowing it up or denying to backstab his friend Chris and let's not forget his undying adoration to his ragamuffin kitten Mr. Mumbles. Secretly Dan has a strongly compassionate side in which he is willing to rescue Elise, Chris, and Elise's hated parents. He generally has a fake demeanor that he shows much in the show: he doesn't care about anyone but himself (and Chris slightly.), yet hides his real feelings which he uncovers whenever he is around Mr. Mumbles. He told Hortense at Burgerphile to do what she wanted to do, because she helped him with his strike. He started a relationship with her, but they broke it off when she was promoted and had to move. He even charmed three girls into liking him, though all these relationships were short lived, as each of them only used him for their own revenge schemes. He seemed saddened by this, but recovered each time by the next episode.
He is very fond of his car, even though it is in terrible shape. In fact, many of his revenge quests were caused because someone heavily wreaked his car, whether intentionally or not. He has said that he loves his car and if he has grandchildren he will sell it to them.
In some episodes, when Dan becomes enraged, Dan tells Chris that he wouldn't kill anyone. But in "The Wolfman" when Chris told him he expected him to kill the wolfman, Dan believed that was going too far. Dan has mentioned the Bible a couple of times. In short, Dan doesn't have much passion for killing.
He is a serious fan of Shakespeare, his teddy bear is even named Brutus. He also shows a vast knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and the English language in general, shown by his usage of unusually erudite terminology and his correction of other people's utterances.
Although Dan comes off as cold and callous, he does have a sensitive side that is rarely seen. In "Wedding" when he found out Hortense was getting married, he looked to be on the verge of tears. His despair quickly turned into rage, but it was clear that he still felt devastated on the inside. He has much difficulty expressing emotions other than anger and outrage, and doing so is even on his list. He was unable to tell Hortense that he loved her, saying instead that he, "felt very warmly towards her."
Dan is a born leader as seen in "Dan vs. The Fancy Restaurant" where he and Elise start a French food revolution between the cooks and dungeon people. Chris has also stated that Dan has a terrible memory, "He's like an angry goldfish." (Goldfish can only remember the last 8 seconds.) According to Chris, he "has a very strange patchwork of knowledge, it's anyone's guess as to what he knows about any given topic." He then demonstrated this by asking Dan who carved Mt. Rushmore and where it is located. Dan knew who carved it but didn't know which state it was in. He has been shown to be very knowledgeable about many things yet ignorant of many things, as well. While he may be ignorant about some things, Dan is very persistent. Which can be both a good and bad thing. Dan would sometimes look at things without reason no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Such as neighbors when he assumed they are cannibals and trashed his car (Dan did that himself but pinned the blame on them anyway, and high school reunion where he didn't want to go but went anyway due to the fact that he wasn't invited (he was) and Chris points out he moved 5 times (probably due to criminal acts)
Chris Pearson, one of the producers and the inspiration for the character Chris, described Dan as "Calvin[from the comic Calvin and Hobbes] as a grownup, if his life had gone horribly wrong somewhere."
Friends and Family
Not much is known about Dan's relatives, other than the fact that he had a grandmother, the various hints about both his mother and father, and hints about this childhood growing up. It's implied or outright shown that Dan has poor relationships with his grandmother, mother, and possibly father. Dan's parents are divorced, possibly due to their negative ways of child rearing, either by one or both adults.
The most recently known living condition of a family memeber is Dan's Grandmother, as he spoke on the phone with her in Dan vs. the Dentist, but she has apparently died since then. Dan has claimed to have stolen her deviled eggs recipe on her death bed, before she could take with her to her grave. In the beginning of Dan vs. Baseball, he was driving home from a funeral, though it's unknown if it was for his grandmother. Dan also has a dead, successfully wealthy, uncle, as mentioned in Dan vs. Golf. Dan has previously dug up his grave to steal his uncle's suit.
Dan has also mentioned his mother on some occasions, all comments being about a negative memory of her. Such rare occations when Dan's mother is slipped into the show, as when Dan said, "Those were gift from my mother! How dare you confiscate them," in which Dan's mother had given him brass knuckles as a gift (Dan vs. the Wolfman). Though his opinion on his mother isn't a very positive one, as seeing the word "Mom" on the screen in Dan vs. Anger Management provoked a rather hostile reaction from him. He also hinted that his mother was forcably distant from and apathetic towards him and his needs, as at the age of five he was tricked into a root canal in Dan vs the Dentist, he didn't learn how to tie his shoes until he was twelve (Dan vs Baseball), and in Dan vs Parents it was explained that Dan's father was violent toward a lawyer after being unable to obtain custody rights after divorce. Dan's parents have also supposedly been negligent towards Dan and his needs as a child, as he's stated several times, and they had sat him in front of a TV his whole life. Also, despite Dan's pleading in Dan vs. Summer Camp, they kicked him out of the car and left him at a camp he didn't want to be at. In Dan vs, Summer Camp, Dan said that a fire is "warm, like a mother's hug... at least how I'd imagine a mother's hug."
Chris is Dan's only real friend, and their bond was formed through taking revenge on an abusive camp director in Dan vs. Summer Camp. However, both Dan and Chris have made reference to another friend, an as of yet unseen person named Ted, who used to be friends with Dan until something caused a disliked rift between them. Throughout the series, Dan make allies and enemies during his "revenge missions", and some of them give up their revenge grudges or make new ones against Dan's constant foiling of their plans.
Not much is known about Dan's early life, but his childhood other than the episode of when he met Chris. Once heard in Dan vs Dan*Imposter, Dan's childhood was so horrific that even Elise's enemy-re-promgraming therapists ran off screaming when hearing about it. In the Baseball episode [Dan vs Baseball], he reveals that he didn't learn to tie his shoe until he was twelve. His parents seemed to have been rather neglectful of his welfare; once a dentist even tricked Dan into giving him a root canal before he even had his permanent teeth. As a result of their negligence, Dan claims to have been raised by TV claiming he turned out "super-duper". Most of his awful experiences with his parents has caused Dan to become odd in communicating his affectionate feelings and poor in social skills having to deal with any type of loving reaction. It may also be because of his parents, relatives, poor family inter-relationship(s), or how he was raised poorly in his childhood, either or all of those, being possible causes upon why Dan isn't able to trust many people well and also has poor communication and social skills in such areas, as well. Dan has also mentioned that his parents got divorced when he was very young and he hasn't seen his father since. In "Summer Camp" his parents dropped him off at Camp Atrocious, which, according to Chris, "was even worse than its name." However, Dan looked back on it fondly because of his revenge on the ruthless counselor and bullies, and also because it's where he first met and befriended Chris. In the "High Scool Reunion" it's revealed that Dan was incredibly popular in high school, since everybody loved his crazy revenge antics, but he was never aware of it.
Occasionally, something will rile Dan up while he's in the middle of exacting revenge on another party. This results in Dan whipping out a steno pad and writing down the offending object on his list of things to get revenge on later. (The list includes: Babies who cry at the park, babies in general, generals, dull pencils, pencils that are too sharp, Banana Slugs, Costa Rica, Neurotoxins, Alpaca Wool, Being forced to express his feelings, and Arizona shown in the episode New Mexico.)
In the Neighbors Dan is shown to have a resemblence with Jason, his neighbor, as they both carry around stenopads to right down the unruly object that annoyes them.
In rare instances Dan erases an aggitation. In Dan vs. The Telemarketer, Dan adds Elise to the list when she makes him angry and they both almost get into a fight. However, Dan erases her after he sees her ruthlessly beat up Chris' old boss, Mr. Zimmerman.
The Batboy is Dan's superhero alter ego in the episode "Dan vs Baseball". A childly, humorously ominous shout-out to The Batman, The Batboy is shown to be always wraped around in his cloak, mysteriously valiant and mission-opted-secretive. Batboy's character is never submiting to his enemies (even when told to roll onto the floor when on fire), holds himself up with pride by his superhero name, and shows a comical mastery of gagetry. Used to try to gain entrance to the Commissioners Box at the game, his Batboy ego failed when the costume burned up after Dan mistakenly entered the girls bathroom.
Biff Wellington is Dan's alter ego towards the end of the episode "Dan". Somewhat the Anti-Dan, Biff is shown to be a gentle and kind spirit. However, Dan only staged Biff's persona when the fake Dan gets hauled off to jail for missing a court appearance, which Dan hoped would get the imposter, with Dan's identity, into enough trouble to forfiet Dan's real identity back to himself.
Evil Temp Worker Dan
Evil Temp Worker Dan is another alter ego of Dan, first used to get rid of a demonic evil boss in the episode "Dan vs The Boss". A heavily manipulative and super enraged form of Dan, shown as crafty, phycologically manipulative of the employee workers, and iron fisted upon work rules and codes (no matter how heartless or insensitive they are). Being extra close to his Boss, Dan staged this alter ego to eventually double cross his Boss and send her back to the evil firy pit from which she fromed from.
- "This is an outrage!"
- "You're going on the list."
- "Shut up."
- "You'll get yours, Arizona."
- "I can't believe how much I hate everything."
- "HOW DARE YOU LET YOUR MACHINE PICK UP! YOU ARE SCUM! YOU ARE WORTHLESS, SPINELESS, ROTTEN TO THE CORE- THAT'S IT! WE ARE NO LONGER FRIENDS! I HATE YOU! WE ARE DONE! IF YOU EVER TRY TO SPEAK TO ME AGAIN I WILL LITERALLY STRANGLE YOU!! ... Come over when you get this. It's Dan."
- "Never send a Chris, to do a Dan's job."
- "If you can't beat em', join em'. If you can't join em', burn their house to the ground."
- His left thumb is double-jointed, which is shown in "The Magician"
- Dan is lactose-intolerant. Eating cheese or milk based products makes him roll around on the floor clenching his stomach in pain.
- In Dan vs. Baseball, Dan mentions he's been hit with tear gas so many times it doesn't affect him anymore.
- Mr. Mumbles is a girl cat and he acknowledges her as a girl. He named her before he knew her gender, and didn't find out she was a girl until several episodes after he adopted her, but still calls her Mr. Mumbles anyway.
- In Dan Vs. Elise's Parents, Don reveals that Dan was Chris's best man in Chris and Elise's wedding by saying, "I recall his best man toast where he told us that marriage is a scam and that you and Elise Jr. would be divorced within the year."
- In "Elise's Parents" Dan tells Elise that he has no dental records. A possible nod to "The Dentist" in which he stole his own records to prove that his dentist Dr. Pullem was a supervillain.
- In the episode Dan Vs. Dan, it is shown on his driver's license that Dan is 5' 6" (1.68 m) in height, weighs 105 lbs (47 kg), and was born on 31 October (Halloween) 1975. Although Dan Mandel (creator of the show) was saying that was only because the animators made it that.
- Dan has stated that the police no longer take his calls.
- Dan has another friend, besides Chris, named Ted. He has yet to make an appearance. He's on Dan's list, so it is likely Dan now hates Ted like he does many other things.
- In "Ye Olde Shakespeare Dinner Theater", Dan is shown to have an extensive knowledge of and a large appreciation for the works of William Shakespeare, to the point that he swears a vendetta against the eponymous dinner theater for "soiling the works of the Immortal Bard".
- Dan appears to be a fan of The Ramones, since he has a poster of the band's logo hanging in his apartment.
- Dan is wanted by the INTERPOL, as stated by Elise during episode The High School Reunion.
- During episode "The High School Reunion" it's revealed that Dan was incredibly popular in high school, since his classmates loved his revenge hi-jinks but he was never aware of it.
- It is revealed in Summer Camp, that Dan and Chris met when they were forced into a bad summer camp, Camp Atrocious, when they were kids.
- The name Biff Wellington is a play on the food "Beef Wellington".
- As seen in Reality TV , Dan knows Morse Code.
- His voice actor Curtis Armstrong has the same voice actor as Robot Default from Robot and Monster, as well as Snot from American Dad!.
- Dan has drawings of an American soldier and German warplanes on his motel wall.
- Dan seems to be aware of the pattern in each episode (1. He is wronged in some way, 2. He screams out the name of his new enemy, 3. He goes on his new misadventure). In the episode "Gigundo Mart" he learns Ninja Dave's Cookies, his preferred cookie eatery, is on the verge of shutting down due to being unable to compete with the titular mega-store and begins to scream, "GIGUNDO M-, oh wait I already did that...", realizing he has already sworn vengeance.
- A bear has made Dan her mate.